Sunday, July 01, 2007

Middle Class Race Drama Continues

Commentary continues to fly about the Supreme Court's banning of the use of race to achieve, yes, racial integration. At some point they will ban the category of speed in deciding how fast we are going. All commentary I've seen - except mine - ignores the importance of Breyer's dissenting opinion even though, by one count, he got as many votes as Roberts for his dogmatic colorblindness.

The law professor Jeffrey Rosen offers a clean schema for understanding the decision in today's New York Times's Week in Review section. He writes that since Brown v. Board in 1954 liberals have wanted an integrated society but that conservatives have wanted colorblindness. He goes on to say that Court decisions on race mean less than social momentum, that Brown mattered because society was more interested in reducing segregation anyway.

This last part is very true. There's been, for example, lots of recent work on the way the executive branch wanted to clean up the American racial act for competition with the Soviets among the black and brown peoples of the world.

The first part is only half-true. The true part is what Rosen does not emphasize: that colorblindness is proposed as a de facto alternative to integration and not as a means to it. Conservatives don't care about racial segregation and resegregation, as is shown one again in the Seattle decision by the way that all the actual social and historical data resides in Breyer's dissent.

This gets us to the untrue part, which is Rosen's suggestion that conservatives care about colorblindness as an end in itself. In fact they like it as a means to an end, which is their total freedom to live in overwhelmingly white institutions - almost all-white schools, universities, law firms, and corporate offices.

The other piece of this is that racially mixed spaces continue to be defined as lesser and unequal, starting with mixed neighborhoods where housing prices are always below their all-white equivalents. This is the spiral we're in: mixed or "minority majority" spaces defined (through white people's actual choices) as inferior; the majority of whites preferring almost-all -white spaces instead (80% white or more, even in cities that are minority white); this white majority letting the Right do their dirty work by making all-white alright.

Arianna Huffington nicely sums up a bad week in six lines.

I like this quick slap at Seattle.

But here's a reason never to read the Huffington Post (besides its obsession with celebrities): its featuring of clueless non-alternatives to right-wing practices like resegregation that claim to be liberal. Mr. Shaw says, "End housing discrimination now"! Wake up, Mr. Shaw - most white folks don't their kids to sit in a classroom for a few hours a day with black and brown kids much less actually live with them. Voluntary discrimination is exactly what three decades of conservative rule has made respectable again. The inequality boom has made residential segregation very easy, and the old racial covenants completely unnecessary.

The levels of denial surrounding this whole issue are truly clinical. The whole country needs to go on Adderall until the 2008 elections.

This is a big crossroads for the white middle-class. Will we keep circling the wagons and handing out the equivalent of guns to right-wing jurists so they can kill the Indians we'll feel real bad about later? Or will we figure out we need to get rid of the wagons and actually live together, literally, right next door, up the stairs, and across the street. This would mean rebuilding "inner city" schools so that we are willing to send our kids there.

"Colorblind" is guns-and-ammo - the legal solution to the threat of "social equality" between the races that a big chunk of us have been fighting since the Civil War. Put the guns down.

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